Signs of a Dying Cat: What to Look for and How to Help

Cats are beloved pets and cherished members of many families. But as they age, they can become vulnerable to a range of health issues. One of the most difficult things for pet owners is recognizing when their cat is nearing the end of its life. How do you know when it's time to say goodbye?

In this article, we will explore the warning signs that indicate your cat is near death, as well as provide tips on how to make your cat's final days comfortable and dignified. With a little knowledge and compassion, you can help your cat through this difficult time.

What Makes Cats Such Great Pets, Companions, and Important Parts of Our Family?

Cats are independent creatures with sassy attitudes and loving dispositions. They make wonderful companions and pets for many reasons including:

  • How easy they are to take care of: Cats have independent natures, meaning they require less care and attention than other pets. They clean themselves, litter train themselves, and sleep most of the day.
  • They do well in small spaces: House cats don't require a lot of exercise, which means they are perfect for apartment dwellers. They prefer sleeping over jogging and are content staying indoors. A wild chase with a flashlight beam is all they need to stay in mouse hunting shape.
  • They have a long life span: Cats have longer lifespans than most other popular pets, including dogs. Most cats have a lifespan of 12-18 years with many living into their early 20's.
  • They're loving and loyal: Dogs may get the most notoriety for being loyal companions, but cats are just as loving and loyal. The difference is that cats generally imprint upon one person, whom they will stick by to the very end. Their loyal natures make them ideal companions for single people or those who live alone.

What To Expect When Your Cat Is Dying: Signs Your Cat Could Be Dying

Cats are very good at hiding their pain and discomfort, which makes it challenging to detect when they are unwell. However, there are symptoms of a cat dying you can look out for to determine if your cat is nearing the end of their life. Knowing what to look for can help you provide the best possible care for your furry friend in their final days.


One of the most telling signs your cat is nearing the end of their life is a decrease in appetite or refusal to eat. If your kitty stops eating and drinking regularly, or has an especially poor appetite, it's one of the signs your cat could be dying. Not eating or drinking can be due to a decreased sense of smell or taste, which can be caused by illness or old age.

If this happens, consult with your veterinarian about what steps should be taken next. They may recommend giving your cat fluids through an IV or even providing a small amount of food through syringe feeding.


Weight loss can be an indication that your cat is ill or nearing the end of its life. While all cats will experience some weight loss as they age, rapid and extreme weight loss is a serious sign that something is wrong. Some of this weight loss may be due to lack of appetite, which is one of the more common cat old age dying symptoms.

But if your cat is younger and you notice they have lost more than 10% of their body weight in a short period of time, take them to the vet right away. It could mean they have a serious illness or disease that needs to be treated.


Changes in normal behavior is one of the dying cat stages not to ignore. Depression or lethargy may be present in cats entering their final days. They may experience a lack of interest in their surroundings, or become more withdrawn and less active than usual. They no longer have the energy to take part in activities they once enjoyed. These are signs your cat's body is shutting down.


A sick cat may exhibit other strange behavior such as hiding in new places or not wanting to come out from hiding. Not even for food or treats. Hiding is your cat's natural instinct to seclude itself away from predators while its sick or injured.

A sick cat will mimic this instinctual behavior, even in the safety of your home. If you notice your cat exhibiting this kind of behavior, it could be a warning sign they're ill.


The most tell-tale signs of cat dying of old age is urinary or fecal incontinence. Incontinence is common in both animals and humans dying of old age. As your cat ages, their body doesn't work as efficiently. Including the muscles necessary for bladder and fecal control.

Cats are very particular about using their litter box to do their business. If you notice your cat suddenly having accidents in the house, it may mean they are nearing their time.


Other cat old age dying symptoms include an abnormal odor coming from their body. This can appear in a number of ways, such as a foul smell emanating from their fur or mouth.

This smell is often described as 'fruity' or 'sweet', and it's caused by toxins being released into the bloodstream through organ failure.


Cats usually sleep quite a bit throughout the day, as well as at night. But if your cat is dying, they may start to change their sleeping habits. They may become more restless, or sleep for longer periods during the day or shorter periods at night.

Sleeping changes can also be a sign of pain and discomfort caused by an illness or injury. If you notice changes in your cats sleeping patterns, talk to a vet to find out what you can do to make them more comfortable during their final days.


Many cats will start to pant heavily or struggle days or moments before they pass. These breathing struggles are caused by their respiratory system failing. This can be incredibly painful and stressful for your cat.

Talk to your veterinarian about what steps should be taken to provide relief. In some cases, oxygen therapy may be recommended if your cat is having difficulty breathing on its own.


Cats are fastidious groomers normally, so a significant change in grooming habits can be a warning sign of an underlying health issue. Consult your veterinarian if you notice a decline in your cat's hygiene.

Look for matted fur and dandruff accumulating in your cat's coat. These could indicate your cat has stopped grooming and may be signs your cat is dying.


Cats are known for being quiet, independent creatures. They rarely meow, so if your cat is suddenly more vocal than usual, it could mean something's wrong. The cause of this increase in vocalization could be anything from pain or stress to an underlying health condition. If your cat is showing signs of increased vocalization, get them checked out by a vet.


Trouble moving around can be a sign of a dying cat. As cats age, they may experience stiff joints or arthritis that can make it difficult for them to move around as easily as they used to. A decrease in mobility can also be caused by an underlying medical condition such as kidney disease, which is common in aging cats.

Lack of mobility is one of the common signs your cat is dying of kidney failure, though it may also be old age. Talk to your vet about what you can do to help your cat stay comfortable and mobile.

Signs Your Cat Is Dying Of Kidney Failure

Kidney failure can affect cats of any age but is most prevalent in older cats of 10 plus years. Unfortunately, many signs of kidney failure in cats is undetectable until they have lost about 75 percent of their kidney function.

Below are some of the most common signs your cat is dying of kidney failure.


The kidneys play a crucial role in maintaining your cat's overall health by filtering out waste and toxins from the body. When the kidneys are damaged or not functioning properly, waste products build up in the bloodstream. This can cause a range of symptoms, including vomiting and diarrhea.

Additionally, cats with kidney disease may experience a decrease in appetite and weight loss, which can further exacerbate their symptoms.


Cats with kidney disease tend to drink more because their kidneys are not functioning properly. As a result, they are unable to filter waste products from their blood effectively. This causes an increase in urine production, which in turn leads to dehydration. To compensate for this, cats with kidney disease will drink more water to try and maintain their hydration levels.

However, drinking more water may not be enough, and cats with kidney disease may require other forms of treatment, such as medication or changes to their diet, to manage their condition.


The kidneys are responsible for filtering waste products from the blood, maintaining the balance of fluids and electrolytes in the body, and producing hormones that regulate blood pressure and red blood cell production.

When kidney function is impaired, the build-up of toxins in the body can cause dehydration, and anemia. This can cause your cat to feel tired and weak when dying of kidney failure.


The build-up of toxins and waste from poor kidney function can affect your cat's brain function and cause brain damage. This can lead to seizures, which are the result of abnormal electrical activity in the brain.

In addition, kidney disease can also cause imbalances in electrolytes, such as sodium and potassium, which can further contribute to seizures. Management of kidney disease in cats is important to prevent or minimize the occurrence of seizures and other complications.

Signs Your Cat Is Dying Of Cancer

When it comes to signs your cat is dying of cancer, there are a few things to look for. Cats often hide the signs of their illness until it is too late, so being aware and paying close attention to changes in behavior or physical appearance can help you spot early warning signs.


The most tell-tale sign your cat is dying of cancer is abnormal lumps on their body. These lumps are cancerous tumors that may be painful when touched. If you notice these lumps on your cat at any time, get them checked by your vet immediately.


Cancer can slow down the healing process in cats. Sometimes it may prevent healing altogether. If your cat has a scratch, wound, or other injury that won't heal, it could be a sign they have cancer.


Cancer can damage the lungs which may cause coughing or difficulty breathing. However, there are many illnesses that may cause difficulty breathing as well. Check with your vet to determine the cause of your cat's breathing issues. before assuming it's cancer.

How To Comfort and Care for a Dying Cat

It's heart-breaking to see your beloved cat in decline, but paying attention to dying cat stages can help you better prepare them and yourself. If you notice any changes with your kitty, take them to the vet for a check-up.

Treating any underlying illness can often improve their quality of life, even if it isn't a cure. There are also ways you can make your cat more comfortable during their last days

Ultimately, the most important thing is that you provide your feline companion with the best possible care throughout their life—and especially toward the end—so they feel safe, loved and respected right up until their last moments. Below are some tips for helping a dying cat through their final days.


Take your cat to the veterinarian to have them checked. There is no cure for dying of old age, but there's a possibility something else may be going on. A vet will identify any condition affecting their health and know whether it can be treated.

A vet visit is also a good time to get professional advice on what can be done for your dying cat to keep them comfortable.


When your cat is feeling their best, they are sensitive to loud sounds and disturbances. Their sensitivity will be even greater when they aren't feeling well. A dying cat feels vulnerable and frightened. Providing them with a quiet and safe place to rest is essential for their wellbeing.

If you live with other people (especially kids) keep your cat isolated in a safe and quiet area. Such as a closet or even the corner of your bedroom.


Common cat end of life symptoms most often include lack of mobility and general lethargy. A dying cat will not have the energy to do much of anything in their final days. Make their final days easier on them by moving their necessities, such as their food, water, and litter box nearer to them. They will expend less energy and be able to relax more peacefully.


Comforting a dying cat can be as simple as providing them with a soft and comfortable place to rest. During your kitty's final days, they will spend most of their time sleeping. Giving them a soft, cozy place to rest will keep them more comfortable.

A soft, warm bed is most important for older cats with less fat on their bodies and more joint problems. Harder surfaces will be more uncomfortable and they may get cold more easily.

Consider a cushioned cat bed or layer blankets and pillows so they have a soft place to rest. You may even try a heated blanket to keep them warm. This will be especially helpful if you live in a colder environment.


Loss of interest in grooming and regular bathroom accidents is telling sick cat body language. Helping a dying cat may mean you need to help them clean themselves. Keeping your cat clean is important for their health and wellbeing.

Make sure to keep their coat in good condition by brushing them regularly and providing access to fresh water for drinking and bathing. Regularly check for mats or tangles in the fur, and make sure their bedding is clean, dry, and free of soil.


Physical symptoms of dying cat may include loss of appetite and thirst. Generally, this occurs during the final days of their life. At this point, your cat's body and organs have shut down. Don't force your cat to eat or drink at this time as their bodies cannot handle it. Now is the time to say your goodbyes and wait.

Comforting a dying cat through the final moments is recommended. They will want to be near the people they love most as they take their final breaths.


A cat dying naturally does not necessarily mean they are not in pain. Pain relief for a dying cat may be recommended in certain situations. Talk to your vet about pain medication for your cat. Pain medication can relieve them of any aches, pains, and stress. It will allow them to live out their final days in comfort and ease.

What Options Do You Have When It Comes to End-of-Life Care for your cat?

When it comes to end-of-life care for your dying cat, you have several options:


First, determine if your cat’s quality of life has decreased to the point that euthanasia may be considered. If your dying cat is in considerable pain, discomfort, or immobile, euthanasia may be the kinder option.

Talk to others in your household to get their opinions and thoughts on the matter. It can be difficult to make this decision and there is no right or wrong choice. Ultimately, the decision should be made for what is best for your cat.


If euthanasia is not the right choice for your cat, consider cat hospice. Cat hospice, or palliative care, is a treatment plan for your cat during the final cat dying stages. It includes both veterinary and home care with the use of pain medications, special diet, and plenty of love and attention.

Choosing cat hospice buys you time to decide whether your cat needs euthanasia. Cat hospice can also be used up until the end. You get to say goodbye to your kitty knowing they weren't in pain or suffering.


If your cat does not appear to be in any pain or discomfort, consider letting nature take its course. Many pets die of old age in peace and don't require medical care. Some cats may prefer this way to go. Vet visits, needles, or being forced to take medications may be stressful for some cats. These kitties may prefer to go in peace on a warm blanket with you by their side.

How Will You Know When It Is Time To Make A Decision?

Most cat owners will feel it in their gut when it's time to decide on their future. Trust your feelings. You know your cat best. Talk through your decision making process with friends and family who also care about your cat. They may have good insight from similar experiences.

Consider keeping track of your cat's good days vs. bad days. When they are having more bad days than good days, it could be a sign that it's time to let them go.

What Do You Do Once Your Cat Dies?

When your cat dies you can either have them buried or cremated. Talk to your family about these options before the time comes. Planning ahead will make the cat death process much smoother and less stressful. If you're unsure of what to do, talk to your vet. They will have information on the different options you have for laying your cat to rest.


Burial is common for the death of a cat and could be the right choice for you family. Your options for burial can either be purchasing a lot in a pet cemetery or burying your cat on your own private property.

However, make sure to check local laws and regulations. Some places may prohibit pet burial, even on private property. Burial (if burying your cat on your property) is the less expensive option.


Cat cremation works much like human cremation. Most vets will offer cat cremation as a service. Once your cat is cremated, you will be returned their ashes where you can then place them in your choice of cat cremation urns.

Cremation allows you to keep your pets ashes with you, even if you move to a different home. However, cremation can be expensive depending on your budget.


Aquamation for cats, also known as alkaline hydrolysis, is a new and environmentally friendly alternative to traditional pet cremation. It involves placing your cat's remains into a chamber filled with water and an alkaline solution, which then slowly dissolves the body over several hours. The process is more gentle on the pet's remains and results in a fine white powder called "ashes" that can be returned to you.

Aquamation is considered to be a more eco-friendly option than traditional cremation because it produces no emissions and uses less energy. It is becoming more popular among pet owners who want a sustainable and respectful way to honor their beloved pets after they pass away.

What To Do With Cat Ashes?

Should you choose cremation or aquamation for your cat, there are many different things you can do with your cat's ashes besides keeping them in an urn.


A popular option for paying tribute to the deceased is to scatter their ashes in a place of importance to them. For example, you may choose to scatter your cat's ashes in their favorite park or the garden in your background where they liked chasing butterflies. Scattering their ashes is a way of bringing closure to their death. You can find comfort knowing their final resting place is somewhere they loved.


Pet cremation jewelry or ashes into jewelry are pieces of jewelry crafted using a small portion of your cat's ashes. Your cat's ashes are incorporated directly into the design of the jewelry itself. In this way you can keep your kitty close to you wherever you go.


Create new plant life by burying your cat's ashes in the soil with a new plant or tree. Planting your cat's ashes can symbolize the circle of life. You can think of it as your cat bringing life back into the earth with their remains.

It may also help you through the grieving process. As you watch your new plant or tree grow, you will feel closer to the memory of your beloved feline.


Check out your local craft store or home improvement store for cement mixing kits to create your own garden paver. Mix your cat's ashes into the cement itself to pay a special tribute to them. You can then engrave the stone or even print their paw print (if you have it) into the cement to remember them by.


Finally, for those who want to celebrate their cat's life in a more unique way, having your cat's ashes incorporated into fireworks can be a meaningful and beautiful tribute.

Having your cat's ashes incorporated into fireworks is not an overly complicated process. Contact a fireworks display company and provide them with your cat's ashes. They will then incorporate the ashes into their show, allowing you to both honor and celebrate your pet's life in a unique way.

How To Grieve The Loss Of Your Cat

Grieving the loss of a cat can be an incredibly difficult and heart-breaking experience. Cats are beloved companions who provide us with years of unconditional love, loyalty, and joy. It's understandable to feel immense sorrow when they pass away.

Here are some tips for grieving the loss of your cat:

  • Acknowledge Your Feelings: It’s important to allow yourself to feel your feelings and not try to suppress them or ignore them. Allow yourself the time and space to grieve properly. Take some personal time off work to process your grief. Pet loss can be just as heartbreaking as losing a human family member. You should allow yourself the same grace as you would if grieving a human family member.
  • Take Care of Yourself: Grief can be physically and emotionally exhausting. Make sure you're taking care of yourself by eating nutritious foods, getting enough sleep, and engaging in activities that bring you comfort and joy, whether that's taking a walk in nature or practicing yoga.
  • Reach Out For Support: Surround yourself with trusted friends, family members or even your vet for support. Talking to people who understand the depth of your pain can help ease some of the pain.
  • Create a Memorial: Take some time to remember your cat by creating a memorial. Hold a private memorial service at your home or make one online. Invite friends, family, and other pet friends your cat may have had. Use the occasion to say goodbye to your kitty and remember the good times you shared with them.
  • Purchase Cat Remembrance Jewelry: Cat cremation jewelry, cat photo engraved jewelry, or cat keepsake jewelry can be a way of honoring a cat after their death. Cat remembrance jewelry can incorporate your cat's personality through custom design and engraving. It can be of great comfort to have a small part of your cat with you when you are missing them. It's also a great way to memorialize their memory forever.
  • Take Comfort in Normalcy: If you have other pets, let the routine of caring for them give you some normalcy. Share more time with them both to comfort you and your pet. Remember, pets also grieve. Other pets in your household may be grieving the loss of your cat just as much as you are.
  • Reminisce in Old Memories: Look through old photos and videos of your cat to remember the good times. Keep their memory alive by remembering all the moments your cat made your life better. Remembering these special times may help bring you closure to their passing.
  • Make a Charitable Donation: Give a charitable donation in your cat's name to your local animal shelter or animal hospital. In this way you can feel as if their death made a difference. It's one more way to honor their passing and provide them with a special cat tribute.
  • Consider Adopting Another Cat: While no cat can ever replace the one you lost, adopting another furry friend can be a positive way to channel your love and energy. When you're ready, visit a local animal shelter and spend some time with the cats there. You may find that you're ready to provide a loving home to a new feline companion.

Know that it's normal to feel grief and despair after the loss of a pet. Grief is different for everyone, so don't let others tell you how to feel. With time you will heal from your sorrow and look back on memories with you cat with love and fondness.

Dying Cat Frequently Asked Questions

My cat is dying but I have no money to take it to the vet, what do I do?

If you do not have the financial resources to take your cat to the vet, there are still some options. First, you can try contacting local animal shelters or rescue organizations to see if they can provide any assistance or resources. Additionally, some veterinarians may offer payment plans or low-cost services for those in need.

You can also try fundraising through online platforms or social media to help cover the expenses. It is important to remember that your cat's health and well-being should come first, so do not hesitate to seek help and resources in any way possible.

Do other cats know when a cat is dying?

It is difficult to say with certainty whether other cats know when a cat is dying. Some behavioral observations suggest that cats may be able to sense the end of life for a cat. For instance, cats may become more protective or affectionate towards an ill or dying cat companion.

They may also avoid or show aggression towards a sick cat. This perhaps may be to prevent spreading disease or to protect their own survival. However, there is no scientific evidence to support the idea that cats have an innate ability to detect death or dying.

Additionally, individual cats may have different reactions depending on their personality and past experiences. Ultimately, it is important to provide proper care and attention to a sick or dying cat, regardless of whether or not other cats can sense their condition.

What is a safe pain relief for a dying cat?

Consult with a veterinarian to determine the best and safest pain relief option for a dying cat. Some pain relief options may include medications such as opioids, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), or corticosteroids. However, it is important to note that some pain medications can have potential side effects and can be harmful if not administered correctly.

Additionally, alternative therapies such as acupuncture or massage may also provide some pain relief. Again, it is crucial to consult with a veterinarian to determine the best course of action for your dying cat.

Do cats close their eyes when they die?

There is no one definitive answer to whether or not cats close their eyes when they die. Some pet owners and veterinarians have reported that cats may close their eyes before passing away, while others have observed that their eyes remain open.

Note that the position of a cat's eyes at the time of death is largely dependent on the circumstances of their passing and their physical state. Regardless of whether or not a cat's eyes close when they die, provide comfort and support to your feline companion in their final moments.

How do I know when my cat has finally passed away?

There are several signs that can indicate that your cat has passed away. First, your cat may stop breathing and their heart may stop beating. You may also notice that your cat's body has become stiff and cold.

In addition, your cat's eyes may be open and not responding to light, and they may have lost control of their bladder and bowels. If you are unsure whether your cat has passed away, you can consult with a veterinarian or a pet hospice service for guidance and support during this difficult time.

My cat is dying how long will it take?

It is impossible to say how long it will take for your cat to pass away. This will depend on the individual circumstances and the underlying cause of their illness. In most cases, cats that are suffering from a terminal illness may pass away within days or hours. However, some cats may maintain a good quality of life while they remain at home during the dying process.

Discuss your cat's situation with your veterinarian in order to determine the best course of action for them. Sometimes there are no other options available but palliative care and hospice support until their natural death occurs.

Saying Good-bye To Your Precious Feline

When it comes to a cat’s health, the sooner you recognize and address any signs of a dying cat, the better. If you suspect that your beloved feline friend is near the end of their life, it’s important to provide them with comfort and support. Speak to your veterinarian right away for advice on how to best care for them during their final days.

July 21, 2023 by Frances Kay